Swarathma, an Indian folk rock band based in Bangalore with more than 16000 facebook likes and most importantly a favourite band of many folk-rock lovers In India and the world at large.
According to them,“we find our purpose in the music that finds its way to the soul. We sing songs born of pain and pleasure, joys and sorrows, rain and shine, of hope that lifts hearts out of despair, of life as we know it today.”
(A little conversation between Thousand Miles And Swarathma as follows)
TM: When we asked them about the inspiration behind the formation of their band…
(Swarthma)_Vasu: When I first met Abhinanth Kumar(Swarathma’s co-founder and ex-bassist) I immediately hit it off with him sharing my compositions and at the same time learning while making songs with him. Meanwhile, I was closely watching ‘Antaragni’ a Bangalore band and was very inspired by those musicians and their coming together to make music. I realized that I would be also enjoy playing and making music with other like-minded people so that I could expand my creative space by exploring more than what I could do alone. There is a special joy that I always experience (mostly on stage) while playing with my band. The fun is when we come together and ‘make’ music right there at that given moment. We might’ve practiced many times but if we don’t connect, music doesn’t happen in our own hearts. But with my band so far there hasn’t been a single show where I’ve not experienced that, and this is what has driven me to form and keep playing in this band.
TM: A brief intro of the band members.
Swarathma: Band members are: Vasu Dixit (vocals/guitar/khamok), Pavan Kumar KJ (percussions, vocals), Montry Manuel (drums, percussions), Jishnu Dasgupta (bass, vocals), Varun Murali (guitars, vocals), Sanjeev Nayak (violins, vocals)
TM: The name ‘swarthma’ is very unique and so we queried them regarding this and they replied…
(Swarthma)_Jishnu: The name Swarathma came from one of the ex-band members, Abhinanth Kumar. He wanted a name that was more than just a cool word. He wanted a name that meant something. The name ‘Swarathma’ came from his mind. Of course, it stuck. The idea is for our music to be the soul of the note, or perhaps notes from the soul. We would like to continue to make music that is honest and from the soul.
TM: When we asked them about their genre of music…
(Swarathma)_Varun: It’s very difficult to say what genre we fall under as genres were mostly created to sell music and considering the constant growth of influences in our music, it’s hard to say we fall under a genre. However, people have accepted us as folk-rock band which to a certain extent holds good.
TM: when we asked them about their experience of first musical recording, they shared…
(Swarathma)_Montry: That was an awesome experience recording our debut album in Kshitiz Studios, Delhi. Working with Amit Kilam from Indian Ocean (who produced the album) was a great thing. I had finished recording drums for 8 songs within 3 days! That was one giant leap for me as well as the band!
TM: After the release of their debut album, they shared the response they received from their fans…
(Swarathma)_Pavan: The response was quite surprising. As I recall the Karnataka people had not heard a Kannada rock song by any artist/band until ‘Ee bhoomi’ got evolved from Swarathma. The Kannada people had voted us as the best band from Bangalore in a radio hunt even before our debut album was released. Whenever we play in any part of the state ‘Ee bhoomi’ (one of the songs from our debut album) still remains to be the hit song. May be because the song is in their mother tongue and also the since the song deals with the earth becoming a paradise.
Jishnu: The response to the album itself was overwhelming. Our album won the Popular Choice award at the JD Rock Awards 2010! Several songs from the album have gone on to find success in different fields. Ee Bhoomi has been chosen by several filmmakers for a soundtrack to their film, Shubha Mudgal decided to work with us on the track Pyaasi which became our first music video.
TM: When we asked them whether any eminent person or any figure that helped them in their musical journey, they replied…
Jishnu: We have had the good fortune of meeting the right people at the right time in our career as a band. It began with us winning the Radio City Live contest in 2006 where we met RJ Rohit Jayakaran who gave us a lot of confidence. When we won the second edition of the same contest in 2008 we met the people of EMI/Virgin Music, who were more collaborators in our effort than a record label who tried to exercise their creative control. In fact, there was total support from their side. We also met our management team at the same time – the people of OML Entertainment have been instrumental in allowing us to find ourselves and taking care of the business of music. And of course, meeting and working with Amit Kilam, who produced our first album was a huge blessing. There are lots of people who may not be eminent, but were critical to the success of our endeavours, we wish to credit our friends and family for this. While in Delhi we stayed with Deepika Dadlani, while in Chennai to mix the album we stayed with Aparna Gonibeed. They opened their homes and hearts to us. We would like to thank them, again!
Swarathma (eponymous debut) / EMI Music / Jan 2009
Soundpad (compilation of 4 Indian bands)/ Counterculture Records / May 2009
Pyaasi (single feat.Shubha Mudgal) / Independent/ May 2010
Duur Kinara (single co-written by Shubha Mudgal)/ Dewarists / December 20114
TM: for our curiosity when we queried them their favorite band, they uttered quite wonderfully!
(Swarathma)_Montry: I am into a lot of bands, including disco, reggae, rock and electronic. Boney M, bob marley and wailers, scorpions, eagles, iron maiden, metallica, megadeth, pantera, pink floyd, jojo mayer nerve , trilok gurtu, indian ocean, osibisa, shpongle, Street Drummers, Tribal dance and Rhythm, The Blue Man Group, Rusted Root etc..
But as a band we follow Indian Ocean, Motherjane, Avial etc.
TM: how did the entire band felt the entire dewarist session with melody queen Shubha Mudgal?
(Swarathma)_Pavan: First and foremost I have never seen a person who is so humble and down to earth other than Shubhaji. There is a lot of learning from her as to how one should be grounded. Right from the beginning when we met her she has been more like a friend with us. So when we are with her, she makes us forget that she is music stalwart. So the music part becomes more like a conversation. When we brought an idea of visualizing a song in a different way, she immediately got involved in it and worked. One thing we realized while working with her that she treats every musician alike. That makes one very easy to work with her. During the whole session of Dewarists we felt that Swarathma was comprised of 7 people not 6, including Shubhaji!
TM: Your karnataka-film line experience and live concerts…
(Swarathma)_Vasu: I’m just completing my first Kannada film as a co-director of music (independent of the band, with Abhilash Lakra), so I don’t have too much experience to share. But so far it has been quite pleasant and lot of eye-opening, learning there and subconsciously some of those lessons do get carried into the band and vice-versa. While as a band we make music that we like, film music is made for the script and the director of the film. No doubt you’d still make whatever is your style but you’d be working with-in a boundary drawn by so many people/factors linked to the film and the industry. As of now, I’m enjoying and quite excited about it.
TM: Any obstacle that you come across so far…
(Swarathma)_Varun: Obstacles are a part of the journey. Without them, there can never be an improvement. We face obstacles almost every day. Be it writing a new song or learning a new guitar part. But we never see it as an obstacle because we love doing what we do and it just feels like chasing a dream.
TM:A peculiar question we ask them- “what is your view about ‘rock’ AND ‘CLASSICAL’ music?”
(Swarathma)_Pavan: My initial exposure to music in my childhood was Classical music. So I relate to classical music more than rock. I’ve always felt Classical music is a blend of melody and mathematics, specially the intricate ‘alaaps’. And I feel classical music is like painting. Each person will have his/her own style of singing the same raag just like each painter paints the same subject in one’s own way.
To be frank I got exposed to serious rock music after Swarathma happened. Initially I couldn’t relate myself to it much. But now I’ve become an avid listener of rock music. And have found intricate music in it too. If classical music makes one sit and relax/meditate, rock music gives that extra energy to stand up and run!
TM: when we seek information about any new project or album they are presently working upon, they said…
(Swarathma)_Varun: We are currently working on releasing our second full length studio album soon. We have finished recording the tracks and currently under mixing stage.
Jishnu: The album will be called Topiwalleh and it is something that we have worked on very hard. It represents a subtle shift in the band’s sound. While the first album was mostly written before this line-up got together, this album has shared songwriting from all members. It’s also an album where the band is taking a stronger stand on the issues that we believe in. That way it will be a more powerful album. It will be an independently released album offered for free download. The first song ‘Aaj ki Taaza Fikar’ has already been released.
This album was recorded at Empire Studios, Mumbai and we had Loy Mendonsa working on it as a producer, so it was a great all-round experience!
TM: your predictions about the future of CD and vinyl sales and what if digital music completely replaces these formats…
(Swarathma)_Jishnu: To answer this question I want to speak a little about the music industry and how it has changed. Previously, there was a wall between the artist and listeners. This wall had a few gates, guarded by the music labels. They decided who will pass through and collected a toll from BOTH parties, the artists and the fans!
Then the internet came and BLASTED holes in this wall. And music started flowing freely between artists and listeners. Of course, the gatekeepers cried foul, nobody wanted to use their gate (and pay a needless toll) when the hole was blasted anyway! So they tried their best to plug the holes but did not bother to make their gates more attractive. The internet is too radical a change to be wished away.
That brings me to the future of music sales – it has no future. Freely available music is the future. But instead of moaning about their fate, artists need to find ways to encourage people to buy music, rather than discourage people from downloading.
Future monetization of music will come from holistic sales, not JUST music, but the experience of the artist. We all need to come out of the belief that releasing and selling music is the only way to do it.
TM: what is your view about the online selling of music and illegal music downloads?
(Swarathma)_Jishnu: Piracy is the single best thing to have happened to music since the invention of recording, because so many people have heard the music. Isn’t that the pure purpose of music? To be heard?
We need to remove the tag ‘illegal’ from music downloads. They are the ONLY way that an artist will get more fans. Music MUST be free. But monetization can come from other sources. If as an artist you can WORK harder to make your music a more attractive proposition (bundling concert tickets, memorabilia, personal interaction etc) you can encourage people to pay for the experience of your music, and not just for your CD.
Online selling of music is the way of the future, but like I said, it cannot be music alone.
When we asked them about their any cherish moment to share to share with us, they replied happily…
(Swarathma)_Vasu: When Swarathma took part in the Radio City Live contest in 2006 in B’lore, it was the first time that we had seen such a huge crowd of 8-10k people, as performers. I was very excited and to be accepted and cheered by them was a hair rising experience. That show brought-in a lot of confidence in me.
We once played in a blind school, Pune, as part of our ‘Action Replay’ shows. This is a series of free concerts we play to give music back to those who may not easily have access to it. During the show when I went singing amongst the (blind) children, one of the kids wanted to touch me and see who this voice was. He touched my hair and felt strange, by then another kid held his hand on my throat, that’s the first time I really felt like someone had really ‘touched my voice’. That’s a feeling very hard to express and I recall that incident whenever I’m low on confidence about my voice.
TM: what are your future prospects and dreams?
(Swarthma)_Sanjeev: Our dream is to become India’s best loved band. We also want to travel abroad and showcase the India we know to international audiences. We also want to be known for creating great music albums and videos.
TM: when we asked them to share a few words about what they feel about us, they came up with a very sweet brotherly advice…
(Swarathma)_Jishnu: Independent music needs a support system of people who believe in it enough to promote it. In that sense you are a key part of it. Keep up the good work. The only thing I wanted to say is “don’t blindly support the scene”. By that I mean don’t support a band just because they are a struggling band. That kind of support does not last. Instead, support a band whose music you genuinely like. This will create a viable, sustainable career for people involved in it.
TM: Any message that you would like to send out to your fans.
(Swarathma)_Montry: Wish you happy music and have a good time with us!
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Watch out for the new album, releasing soon!